Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In review--Soaring Heights, Plumbing Depths

Ballakè Sissoko
Vincent Segal
Chamber Music
Six Degrees Records


When we think of the cello, we hear a somber, melancholic sound, mostly attached to European classical music. And when we hear the shimmering sound of a West African kora, the mood that arrives, (though no less sedate than the mood of a cello), feels spiritually uplifting. So pairing these two instruments might seem awkward at first. That is until you hear the beautiful marriage of tones and timbre. While I’m not sure that I would call Ballakè Sissoko (kora) and Vincent Segal (cello) album Chamber Music groundbreaking, certainly it represents one of the most spellbinding albums to come along. The moods of the cello and kora appear to balance each other out, leaving listeners somewhere between melancholy and relaxation. I find this music healing, even powerfully so.


Personally, I find Chamber Music deeply relaxing, so relaxing in fact, that I want to crawl back in bed and absorb its warm tones, rather than type this review. The gentle cadence of Sissoko’s masterful kora playing coupled with the deep, rich bass of Segal’s cello seems like music poised for daydreaming. That is until guest musicians contribute vocals, balafon, and ngoni to the mix. But even this musical village supplies us with a mellow mix.


I don’t know that I can pick out any favorites here because the music flows so seamlessly together like a river picking up stones, branches, and other elements along the way. Some tracks such as Houdesti gather momentum and Regret with its vocals pops and giving off a deep Malian signature. In fact, you might forget about the presence of the cello when you listen to the West African groove the song radiates. On some tracks you hear a strange fusion of European classical and griot kora, on other tracks you hear only the African side of the equation or the Euro-classical side. In any case, I consider the ancient music of the Mandika Kingdom classical in its own rite. After all, wasn’t it the music of the elite?

I recommend Chamber Music as a fine recording well worth your time and attention, not to mention, listening pleasure.  Crawl back into bed and let this music caress your cells.


http://www.sixdegeesrecords.com/, http://www.noformat.net/

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